By Doug Porter
May Day, historically a day of protest, took on a sense of urgency this year in response to the Trump administration’s continuing assault on just about everybody who isn’t poised to benefit in an era of officially-sanctioned kleptocracy.
In cities from coast to coast, thousands of labor and immigrant rights activists took to the streets. The protests began locally with morning teach-ins at college campuses throughout San Diego County. Organizers say roughly 2000 students participated in events at City College, Mesa, Grossmont, Cuyamaca, and Miramar.
The afternoon included a kickoff rally at San Diego City College, followed by a march through downtown to the Federal Building for a second rally, a third march to Chicano Park in Barrio Logan and a final rally staged by Unión del Barrio.
In the North County, students from MiraCosta, Palomar, and Cal State San Marcos joined with community activists for a rally and march starting at Wildwood Park in Vista.
An Existential Threat
The Union-Tribune coverage of May Day events included quotes from American Federation of Teachers VP [and SDFP columnist] Jim Miller:
“I would say that we see labor as under an existential threat,” Miller said. “You have a Supreme Court justice who’s likely to rule against public-sector workers, and we’ve got people running the Department of Labor who are hostile to labor…”
“…It’s easy to attack both union and non-union workers’ rights because people don’t remember the history,” Miller said. “One of the simple things is just to have people say where the American labor movement came from and why. What was it like before workers had an eight-hour day.”
Other speakers at City College on Monday talked about the history of immigrants’ rights and how communities are resisting what is seen as assaults on those rights.
Los Angeles Times national coverage of May Day led with reports of violence in Portland, Oregon, sublimating news about non-violent demonstrations in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, and Miami to the lower paragraphs in the story.
Trump Trolls and a ‘Peace Joint’
The Trump administration issued a “Loyalty Day’ proclamation urging citizens to observe May 1 with ceremonies in schools and other public places, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Hardcore alt-right supporters interpreted this as an affirmation of an existing call to stage counter-protests in cities around the country.
As San Diego protesters marching through downtown approached the Federal Office Building at Front and Broadway, they encountered a handful of pro-Trump demonstrators.
Prior to the arrival of the march, the Trump trolls strutted defiantly back and forth on the sideway, boasting of confrontational fantasies. Later, the right wing types mainly hid behind police as they tried to taunt the May Day demonstrators. Security for the marchers successfully urged their crowd to stand with their backs turned to the provocations.
Elsewhere, there were more serious confrontations.
From the Washington Post:
Meanwhile, tensions are rising between far-left and far-right activists. While masked, black-clad activists on the left have been known to vandalize storefronts and damage cars, they have mobilized heavily in the wake of Trump’s election to oppose his supporters, particularly those who espouse racist views.
Groups of Trump supporters, including members and allies of the loose coalition of far-right activists known as the alt-right, have recently become engaged in opposing the “antifa” groups — sometimes violently — and accuse them of trying to block free speech.
In Seattle, at least two people were arrested when a large anti-Trump contingent and a smaller pro-Trump group converged at Westlake Park. The event appeared otherwise peaceful in the early evening, and Mayor Ed Murray said it was the smallest May Day turnout he had seen during his four years in office, according to the Seattle Times.
But in Portland, where the May Day march included a large contingent of black bloc anarchists and “antifascists,” there was significant damage left in its wake. As the march turned by the federal courthouse in the early evening, rocks collided with the windows. Soon a smoke bomb went off, then Pepsi cans flew over the crowd at police.
The vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful, with scattered arrests for acts of civil disobedience in New York and Oakland.
A confrontation between pro and anti-Trump groups in Seattle came to nothing, as participants agreed to smoke a ‘peace joint’ together.
International May Day Protests
Reuters News reported on violent clashes in France, Italy, Turkey, and South Africa.
In Paris, protesters threw petrol bombs and makeshift missiles at police, injuring at least three officers. Television showed police officers trying to shake out flames from their riot gear and clouds of tear gas enveloping the streets around the Bastille monument.
The clashes foreshadowed the approaching confrontation between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the two winners of the first round of France’s presidential election. They will meet in a second-round vote on Sunday, and each verbally attacked the other at May Day rallies.
The centrist Macron evoked the memory of a May Day 22 years ago as he tried to paint the eurosceptic, anti-immigration Le Pen as an extremist. On that day, a young Moroccan man drowned after being pushed into the River Seine by supporters of Le Pen’s National Front, led then by her father, Jean-Marie.
The New York Times reporting on international May Day marches was more nuanced and included dispatches from Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, Germany, France, and Greece.
See Ya’ Later!
I’m taking a break from doing these columns five days a week. It’s off to New Orleans, where I’ll cross Jazzfest off my bucket list, drink some bitter coffee, and enjoy some of the finest cuisines in the world. This column will resume on Wednesday, May 10.
May Day City College and Downtown
Photos from San Diego by Doug Porter, unless otherwise credited.
May Day in Vista
Photos by Brian Beezley
May Day Around the United States
Photos from Twitter feeds…
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.